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Swinomish Channel Dredging to Start Sept. 19

Dredging of the Swinomish Navigation Channel is scheduled to start Sept. 19, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

A ceremony to mark the start of the dredging project will take place at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18, in the Port of Skagit’s Peninsula Building at the La Conner Marina, 539 N. Third St., La Conner. Speakers will include U.S. Rep. Rick Larson, WA-02, Col. Bruce Estok, District Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and others. The dredging equipment to be used for the project will be on display.

The channel, first dredged more than a century ago, is overdue for dredging. Due to heavy sedimentation, the channel must be dredged at least every three years to maintain navigable depths for commercial and recreational vessels. It is authorized to a depth of -12 feet MLLW. The last partial dredging took place in 2008.

Without dredging, the Swinomish Channel would become impassable for virtually all vessels, which could cause the loss of more than 500 jobs in the Skagit Valley, according to an economic study of the issue commissioned by the Port of Skagit. The Port, which owns and operates the La Conner Marina, has led efforts to keep the Swinomish Channel open since dedicated federal funding for dredging the channel was eliminated in the mid-1990s.

Funding for the Swinomish Channel dredging was included in the Corps of Engineers’ work plan for fiscal year 2012. The Corps awarded a contract for the project on Aug. 28 to American Construction Co. Inc., of Tacoma, with a low bid of $1,884,000. The contract calls for the contractor to perform maintenance clamshell dredging of approximately 200,000 cubic yards of sediment from the Swinomish Navigation Channel. Most of the dredged material will be disposed at the Rosario PSDDA open-water disposal site. The job is expected to be completed in February 2013.

If you are a reporter seeking information about the Port of Skagit, please call Andrew Entrikin, community outreach administrator, at 360-757-0011 or email andrew@portofskagit.com